Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Exercise- The Latest Wonder Drug for Cancer Patients

I just received the following from a reader.  I think it fits right in to what I've been talking about so I've included it here.

Exercise- The Latest Wonder Drug for Cancer Patients. by David Haas

The leading UK charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, recently released a report echoing previous data linking the benefits of exercise to cancer patients. Early studies involved patients. Since then, additional studies have expanded to include patients undergoing treatment for just about every major form of cancer. A similar study by the UCLA Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology found that any type of physical activity may be beneficial for patients at any stage of cancer, from initial diagnosis through remission and recovery. The latest wonder drug for cancer patients may be exercise.

Recommendations on the exact amount of exercise necessary to be beneficial vary. One recommendation is 150 per week. However, most medical experts cited in the studies, note that any amount of regular exercise can help cancer patients be more receptive to treatment. A study involving prostate cancer patients found that the risk of dying dropped 30 percent among patients exercising on a regular basis. Breast cancer studies found a 40 percent reduction in recurrence. Studies show exercise can also reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer, such as colon cancer. Exercise is also helpful in reducing some side effects of cancer treatment, including fatigue and depression. Exercise has a positive effect for patients undergoing treatment for rare forms of cancer as well, such as mesothelioma. Some patients experience a reduction in symptoms when mesothelioma treatment includes regular forms of exercise.

The exercise a patient gets doesn't have to be anything too strenuous. Even tasks such as working in the garden, going for a brisk walk, yoga or swimming can count as exercise and be equally beneficial. The Macmillan report found that more than half of health care professionals, including nurses, doctors and general practitioners, fail to inform patients of the potential benefits of some form of physical exercise during the treatment and recovery process. Those endorsing exercise for cancer patients point out that an exercise routine can be modified during different stages of treatment to fit a patient's needs. Some hospitals and medical facilities organize exercise groups specifically for patients. This provides added support along with the health benefits of regular physical activity in comfortable setting.

It is important to understand that exercise is not meant as a replacement for a patient's existing course of treatment, nor is it implied that exercise can cure any form of cancer. Patients should check with their doctor prior to starting any regular exercise routine. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11 million Americans have some form of cancer. The American Cancer Society also advocates an active lifestyle to help reduce the risk of cancer and during treatment to lessen the physical strain during the recovery process.

David Haas is a cancer patient advocate and the awareness program advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He researches and writes to help people going through cancer. You can find more of his writing at

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cold and the Frozen Tundra

In 2012, I welcomed in the New Year with a head cold and/or sinus infection. Normally I can beat these in a day or so by basically going to bed and sleeping until I'm better (I hate walking around dripping.)  But this time it hung on for nearly a week. No, I didn't stay in bed after the first day or so - it wasn't working so I gave up. I'm fine now and back to my normal routine but this brings to mind something I've been thinking about.

At my last checkup I was talking to my doctor about the problems I've had with my kidney function and with this anemia.  I asked him if loosing an organ like the bladder - even replacing it with something that functions the same - doesn't make the rest of the body more prone to problems. He answered; "Yes,  definitely." I asked this because I don't like things that don't work properly - including my body. I have always come away from physicals with an absolutely clean bill of health (even my draft physical where I might have welcomed something less). I am now 62 and I don't take any pills and I never have. Is this pure luck? Maybe, but ten years ago my doctor told me my blood pressure was too high and I'd have to start taking pills. I immediately changed my life style. I changed how and what I ate (and drank) and I started riding bike to work every day.  In the first month I lost 30 pounds (and I've kept it off). My next check up was normal once again and I've heard no more threats about pills from my doctor.

So at this latest physical, my doctor went on to say that I should continue to do as much as I can to keep healthy and to stay physically fit. This is important to everyone but it is critical to someone like me who has had cancer treatment (and this sort of surgery).

Since my surgery I have learned that my Neo-Bladder is very good at performing the main function of my original bladder  (storage and delivery of urine).  But it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the original. How can it? Who knows for sure what all it did to contribute to the overall functioning of the body as a system. One example I've learned about are the one-way valves in the bladder where the tubes from the kidneys connected. These prevented the back flow from the bladder to the kidneys as the bladder filled and pressure increased. The kidneys apparently don't 'like' this back-flow and it can interfere with their function of removing waste from the blood. This puts more stress on the kidneys and who-knows-what other systems in the body. So it's important for me to think about my kidneys when I decide what to eat and drink. Like drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. And maybe not waiting so long between trips to the bathroom although this is hard because there's really no sensation of fullness, in the neo-bladder, until it gets really full (and starts pressing on things around it ??)

I think of this body as being like a football team (timely being a Packers fan). The team is made up of all it's individual players. Each player must be designed for their particular function in the system (physique, talent,  training, and experience).  To succeed as a team, each player must contribute this function to the whole - hold up their end of the load. Each must also contribute things that are called intangibles like spirit, leadership, esprit d corps, drive, determination, focus, etc. Each player must be in top physical condition in order to endure the demands of the game. This becomes even more important when one player goes down with injury - or otherwise leaves the team. The substitute will usually be somewhat less capable and all the other players must work a little harder to compensate. (In my case a piece of intestine was pulled out of the offensive line to replace an injured wide receiver.)  Hopefully they will all be strong enough, and the playing conditions will not be too grueling (Packers have home field advantage throughout the playoffs), and the opponent not too overpowering for the modified team to prevail and win this, and any future contest.

So I'm trying to ride my bike at least three times a week. I ride to where I used to work before retirement (~ 8 miles round trip) where I still have an office. I hope to take up cross country skiing when and if it finally snows in southern Wisconsin and I can no longer ride. I continue to umpire over 100 games a summer (chasing kids around a ball diamond). And I spend as much time as I can in our woods - trimming trees, planting, thinning, and just walking around looking at the trees, plants, and animals that live there. I hope this will keep all my players 'in the game'.